If this were the start of a novel it would surely mean a long night of exciting page-turning.
But instead this is a real life situation that threatens the stability of Pakistan. We need to be mindful of what is happening.
An enigmatic preacher is camped before the gates of Parliament with thousands of followers, demanding the government’s immediate ouster. The top court on Tuesday suddenly ordered the arrest of the prime minister. Violence is surging, with militants stepping up deadly attacks against both government forces and religious minorities. And relations with India have dipped, after ill-tempered border skirmishes in which soldiers on both sides were killed.
The preacher sounds in many ways like the modern day teabagger in America. But, I repeat, this is no laughing matter.
The chief catalyst of this jolting change comes in the form of a 61-year-old preacher, Muhammad Tahir-ul Qadri, who catapulted himself into the political limelight less than a month ago, and now finds himself issuing ultimatums to Mr. Zardari from inside a bulletproof container within view of the soaring presidential residence.
A giant rally in Lahore last month signaled the start of Mr. Qadri’s assault on Pakistan’s political classes, which he derides as incompetent and irredeemably corrupt — a resonant message in a country of high unemployment and crippling electricity shortages. He drove home his message with an intensive television advertising campaign, paid for with generous amounts of money, the origins of which he has not fully explained.
On Monday evening, he stepped up the attack, leading tens of thousands of followers into the heart of Islamabad, where he renewed demands that Mr. Zardari resign immediately. The crowd fell short of the promised “million-man march,” but was enough to spook the government: by Tuesday morning, he had pushed forward to a square in front of the Parliament.
“There is no Parliament; there is a group of looters, thieves and dacoits” — bandits — he said in a thundering voice, pointing to the building behind him. “Our lawmakers are the lawbreakers.”